This Week in Women: Calling Out Sex Abuse in the Church and the Classroom

This Week in Women is part of a series produced in partnership between Ms. and the Fuller Project for International Reporting. This column is also part of a newsletter; sign up here to receive it regularly.

Signs from a 2010 protest during a papal visit to London. (Jasn / Creative Commons)

Breaking the Silence on Sexual Abuse

In recent years, Pope Francis—head of the Roman Catholic Church and its 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide—has shown a willingness to reconsider divorce, shed light on the plight of poverty and question the church’s stance against homosexuality. However, his progressive outlook ends when it comes to women. As he has made clear, the discussion to extend the priesthood to women “is closed.”

On Tuesday, we shared outrage and horror at the tragic cost of that ongoing refusal: Details of more than 1,000 cases of child sex abuse were revealed by a 1,400 page Pennsylvania grand jury report. 300 priests stand accused, while others knew and failed to act. Most of the victims were young boys, but plenty were also girls and young women.

It’s hard to believe that sexual asceticism and celibacy rules have nothing to do with what’s going on here—along with a perverted male toxicity whose outlet isn’t in machismo, but rather shame, deviance and exploitation.

Meanwhile, Britons are grappling with comments indicating that 200 rapes occur each year in British schools. Laura Bates, the founder of The Everyday Sexism Project, said that widespread access to pornography was distorting boys’ understanding of women.

In the U.S., a former ICE agent is accused of sexually assaulting two women and telling them the police wouldn’t respond if they reported him because he was a member of law enforcement. He has pleaded not guilty. In Russia, a dramatic reduction in the number of domestic violence cases reported to police is attributed to a law passed last year that partially decriminalized abuse.

Other Stories From the Week

We send you into one of the final weekends of summer with a tribute to Aretha Franklin, who passed away on Thursday. Here are some of her most inspirational quotes.

“Be your own artist, and always be confident in what you’re doing. If you’re not going to be confident, you might as well not be doing it.”

Vermont nominated the nation’s first ever transgender gubernatorial candidate this week, and Ilhan Omar, a state representative from Minnesota, won the Democratic primary in her quest to capture a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in November. Omar came to the U.S. as a refugee from Africa over 20 years ago.

Meanwhile, Pakistani women braced for the rise to power of former cricket superstar Imran Khan, who has criticized feminism and pledged to make Pakistan a “truly Islamic state” when he becomes prime minister on Saturday.

The Border Patrol has appointed a new female chief for the first time in its history. Just five percent of Border Patrol agents are women. Tanzania’s police force is introducing gender desks staffed with detectives trained in domestic and sexual violence.

Tunisia’s president has promised to submit a bill to Parliament that would give equal inheritance rights to women.

Elle’s Jessica Roy travels to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to ride along with Saudi women as the country lifts its ban on women driving.

Devex profiles one of the world’s leading data researchers on violence against women.



Christina Asquith is former editor for Across Women’s Lives at PRI’s The World and founder/editor in chief of the Fuller Project for International Reporting, which contributed this story and which works with Peace Is Loud on women, peace and security issues.